Hastings is bidding for a share of a government fund intended to transform and regenerate high streets and town centres.
At a meeting on Monday (April 29), members of the Hastings and St Leonards Local Strategic Partnership heard how Hastings Borough Council has put forward a bid seeking up to £25m from the Government’s £675m Future High Streets Fund.
As part of its application, members of the partnership heard, the council is looking at what challenges the town centre currently faces and how further investment could be used.
Simon Hubbard, the borough council’s director of operational services, said: “An improved town centre has potential for much wider transformational change, with the creation of new jobs in the town centre and seafronts, new housing, leisure and cultural investment opportunities.
“[Hastings] remains economically a poor town but clearly things have improved and we are at a tipping point where we can take the town centre forward as part of our ongoing journey of improvement.”
At least £55m of the national fund, Mr Hubbard said, has been set aside for ‘heritage high street’ projects. These projects are expected to revolve around the renovation of historic properties in an effort to create cultural or community buildings.
Mr Hubbard said the government had yet to give detailed guidance of how this fund will be awarded, but it was possible that the former Observer building may be a suitable candidate.
Council leader Peter Chowney, however, was cautious about whether the bid would be successful due to the high level of competition for the funding at a national level.
Cllr Chowney said: “The Future High Streets Fund is going to be targeted on failing town centres.
“I must admit it is questionable then whether we will get it, because Hastings by national standards isn’t a failing town centre.
“At the last quarter footfall was actually up on the previous year, when the average for the region was a 10 per cent reduction.
“That has a lot to do with the opening of Primark of course, nevertheless the figures show that relative other town centres it is not failing to the same extent.”
Cllr Chowney also criticised the way the funding was to be awarded, saying it forced communities like Hastings to compete with each other areas for ‘limited amounts of short term money.’
He said he would prefer a longer term funding deal for town centres be brought forward by the Government.
The Government is expected to announce in June which councils have made it through to the next round, Mr Hubbard said.
Rother District Council is also understood to have put forward a bid, seeking funding for the regeneration of Bexhill’s town centre.